State Rep. John King of Rock Hill said he will ask his fellow legislators to begin discussing the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the Statehouse grounds before they adjourn for the summer.
King also plans to re-introduce a bill that would create South Carolina’s first hate crime law.
King – York County’s lone Democratic and African-American legislator – told The Herald he and five co-sponsors will introduce the measure when the Legislature reconvenes Tuesday.
The General Assembly is currently in a special session to complete work on the state’s budget, after its annual session ended June 4. The rules for the special session limit the agenda to certain subjects, and unless they’re amended or a new session is called, any action on the flag will have to wait until January.
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“I hope we can start discussion so we can have the flag removed immediately,” King said. “I think it has a better chance (of passing) now that South Carolina has been embarrassed on the national news.”
The flag issue has re-emerged after a mass shooting in an historic black church in Charleston killed nine people last week. Dylann Roof, 21, is accused of shooting the victims during a Bible study. He told authorities he wanted to start a race war, according to media reports.
An impromptu rally at the State House on Saturday drew 1,500 people calling for the flag to be removed from in front of the Confederate war memorial on Gervais Street.
Along with calling for the flag to be taken down, the motion to be filed Tuesday will also re-introduce a hate-crime bill that will stiffen criminal penalties if a crime is motivated by characteristics like race, religion or sexual orientation. King previously introduced the bill in 2011, after a man was beaten into unconsciousness by a mob outside a Rock Hill convenience store, apparently because the man was gay.
“When I introduced it then, it never saw the light of day. No one wanted to talk about it,” King said. “If people do something like this because of someone’s skin color, we shouldn’t have to wait for the federal government to do something under their hate crime law.”
On Monday, Gov. Nikki Haley also called on the Legislature to remove the flag from the State House grounds, saying that if the General Assembly does not act on the issue during the current special session, she would call legislators back to Columbia to take up the flag issue on its own.
Bristow Marchant • 803-329-4062